The Vintage Cookie

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Savory Herb Cheesecake - one of the greatest recipes of all times.

My sister, Elizabeth, and my brother, Dan, both love to cook as much as I do. All three of us have large and varied cookbook collections, and each of us has developed our own particular style of cooking. However there are a few cookbooks which all three of us own, and a few recipes which all three of us make. One of these cookbooks is Cookwise by Shirley Corriher. One of these recipes is Shirley's "Savory Herbed Cheesecake." This is a party recipe - a big showstopper that is handsome and delicious and is also cheap and easy to make. As Shirley explains: "It is excellent for large parties and a favorite of caterers because it is dramatic and unusual and neither expensive nor difficult to prepare, and it can be made several days ahead.

The recipe claims "15 to 20 servings," but those would be Brobdingnagian servings. I have served this cake at parties with 40 or 50 guests, where it was extremely popular and met with great success, and still had leftovers. I serve the cheesecake with crackers and/or fresh French bread.

Use fresh herbs, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and freshly ground parmesan cheese - the recipe depends on these great flavors.

Equipment: 8 or 9 inch springform pan; food processor; microplane lemon zester/cheese grater.

1 cup bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
finely grated zest of one lemon
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large egg yolk
Nonstick cooking spray

3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese
3 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
4 shallots, finely chopped

Fresh herbs, 3 large tomatoes

1. For the crust, process the flour, salt, lemon zest, and butter in a food processor with the steel knife for several seconds. Some butter should remain in lumps. Add the lemon juice and egg yolk. Process with a few on/off pulses just to mix. Spray and 8 or 9 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Crumble a third of the dough into the bottom of the pan and press out evenly. Press the remaining dough around the sides of the pan. Place in the freezer while you mix the filling.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 deg F (204 deg C). Place an oven shelf slightly above center.

3. Process the cream cheese until smooth in a food processor with the steel knife. Add the flour and 1 egg, process, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, processing after each egg. Add the salt, hot sauce, lemon juice, herbs, Parmesan cheese, and shallots. Process just to blend well.

4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 deg F (163 deg C) and bake until the top is medium brown, about 50 minutes more. Cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack. Loosen the crust from the springform pan by running a thin knife between the crust and pan. Open the springform ring and remove. Let come to room temperature, at least one hour. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

5. To garnish. Carefully peel the tomatoes deeply with a sharp paring knife, in one long piece if possible. Wind the peel into a tomato rose. Arrange three roses on top of the cheesecake, with basil leaves or other fresh herbs to garnish. To make it easy for guests to serve themselves, precut portions by cutting a partial inner circle about 1 1/2 inches from the edge, then cut 3/4 inch slices from the edge to this circle. Serve with a selection of crackers and/or fresh baguettes. Serve at room temperature.

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